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Courts and Crime


Battle over Ohio scout camp closings goes to court
Girl Scouts say they can't afford to maintain camps; opponents say they can't afford not to
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE
and KELLI FITZPATRICK


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
One of the promotional photos on the camping programs offered by the Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio. Plans to close four camps has led to a lawsuit.
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As with closing churches, people get emotional when it comes to closing Scout camps. And some of that emotion is surfacing in an Akron courtroom.

SCHULTZE Girl Scout hearing

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The group Trefoil Integrity is suing to try to keep the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio from selling four camps in Carroll, Summit, Lake and Seneca counties.  It’s asked visiting Judge Richard Reinbold to issue an injunction blocking the sale, saying the council is ignoring its own bylaws.

The scouts Chief Financial Officer John Graves testified that it’s simply a matter of math beginning with the onset of the recession in 2008.

“That affected two things. One, it affected our donations and the donations dramatically dropped. But more importantly, the biggest source of revenue for the Girl Scouts is the annual cookie sale. And you note from the annual statements that that dropped dramatically.”

Graves estimates the council has been operating nearly a million dollars in the hole for each of the last two years.  The council also says its seven current camps need some $18 million in repairs.

More than cost involved
The Trefoil Integrity group has disputed the numbers and the procedures used to decide on the closures.  And Christine Naizer says the group wants more time and scrutiny.

“I’m hoping the judge will see that we have a valid argument that the membership’s voice has not been honored and that the camps will have a chance to remain unsold until we properly evaluate.”    

Emotion surfaces
But some of the testimony in Wednesday’s hearing went beyond dollars, cents and bylaws. Lisa Allison was a Girl Scout leader for 38 years and served on the board of the Great Trail camp in Carroll County. She says times and interests have changed, and it breaks her heart.

“It doesn’t make sense to spend Girl Scout money to keep that. It makes more sense to use that money to find a place that more people will use if that’s possible.”

 Allison says she doesn’t even know if plans to transform its remaining camps into leadership centers will work.

“You can’t make them go camp.”

The new generation
But current scouts Lillie Trammel and Julia Pittner -- who sat through three  days of the court  hearings --  don’t share her fears. They say they want to continue traditions set by those like the scouts who created Camp Crowell/Hilaka in Summit County.

“In the 1930s, I read this pamphlet about it and it said that they saved all of their money to buy the camp and so I don’t think it would be right for the GSNEO to close it because they saved all of their money to open a camp.

“I like Lejnar, too. That one’s a cool one. They have lots of cool things there. They have that water slide that kind of hurts. It’s a natural water slide in the river. It hurts your back. It does hurt your back.”

The Girl Scouts already have sold or returned to their original owners seven other camps. They also are exploring the possibility of leasing mineral rights at the Great Trails camp to oil and gas drillers.

 


 
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